When over half of the tooth’s biting surface is damaged, a dentist will often use an inlay or onlay. Inlays and onlays can be made of porcelain, gold, or composite resin. These pieces are bonded to the damaged area of the tooth. An inlay (which is similar to a filling) is used inside the cusp tips of the tooth. An onlay is a more substantial reconstruction, similar to the inlay, but extending out over one or more of the cusps of the tooth.
Typically, an inlay or onlay procedure is completed in two dental visits.
During your first visit, your dentist must prepare the damaged tooth. A molded impression of the tooth is then taken and sent to a dental laboratory, where an inlay or onlay is fabricated.
Inlays and onlays can be made from gold, porcelain or resin materials. The difference is in the appearance of the finished restoration. A fitted, provisional inlay or onlay (sometimes known as a temporary or “temp” for short) in the shape of the final restoration can be created during this visit to protect the tooth while the final restoration is being fabricated.
Dr. Chen will discuss with you the best type of inlay or onlay material to use. Porcelain inlays and onlays offer the best esthetics and are often used in the “smile line” areas. Resin materials may be the best option for people who grind their teeth and/or those with a misaligned bite (malocclusion).
During your second visit, the provisional temporary is removed and your inlay or onlay is placed.
Inlays and onlays are extremely stable restorations that seldom fail. Dr. Chen will check all margins to ensure a smooth fit with tight adjacent contacts. He will also check your bite to ensure that there are no occlusion-related problems affecting the margins of the restoration. Once fitted, the inlay or onlay is bonded onto the tooth and the margins are polished.